Do you know what skills your teen still needs to learn? If not, then here are 15 life skills to teach your child before they turn 15.
by Kimberly Pangaro | Kimberly is a mom of four daughters and the owner of the lifestyle parenting media company Atomic Mommy. When she’s not running her company or momming all day, she’s writing about family life.
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Life skills are a must-have for any one trying to live in real life, but if you ask a 15 year old what skills they’ve acquired, they’ll just rant on the various TikTok challenges they’ve accomplished. Naturally, this leaves parents wondering whether their child can survive on their own when college is afoot.
But don’t think that at fifteen, teens are not thinking that far in advance–they are! They are contemplating life on their own and what it will feel like to be out from under their parents’ grip. And that’s where the real concern sets in.
Parents, if your concerns are beginning, then here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Did I teach them to boil an egg or how to make ramen noodle soup?
- Do they know how to write a check or balance a bank account?
- Do they know how to shake a hand or even how to write a resume?
For some parents, these questions may have already been asked and answered whilst watching your teens attempt to burn spaghetti. For other parents, the thought may not have crossed your minds. But 15 years old is only a blink away from 18, and then they’ll be headed to college. That’s when their learned life skills will either kick into gear or completely be non-existent.
So what skills can be taught to teens that will help them transition from young adult to full adulthood? If you’re not sure, don’t fret! Here are 15 life skills that a 15 year old definitely needs to know.
#1 How to Use a Debit Card
I can’t tell you how many times my teenage daughters have asked me how to use their brand new Greenlight Debit Cards. They have been lost to the point where they felt it necessary to call me during school lunch breaks to speak with the cashier. Why? Because they kept forgetting their pin numbers.
Obviously, I missed the aspect of physically showing them how to use their new debit cards. Therefore, I leave to you this wisdom–it is super important to take the extra time to teach your child how to use a debit card. Take your teen to a gas station, to a food court, to the grocery store, and teach them to use their debit card with their PIN and also as a credit card.
#2 How to Write a Check
One beautiful afternoon, my oldest asked me why I wasn’t paying my electric bill online. I told her I was paying by check. She proceeded to look at me with confused eyes as if I just stuck her in a time machine to 1985!
She had been taking a financial literacy course in her high school, so I was taken back by how this simple banking knowledge was left untaught. That’s when I had the brilliant idea (for which she hated), to give her a blank check to practice with. We practiced with an entire book of checks until she finally got it right!
So if there is one lesson any parent walks away from this list, I hope it’s to sit with your kids and teach them what a check is and how it works. Otherwise, when they are old enough to pay a bill, they’ll be left looking silly for not knowing basic banking skills.
#3 How to Sign Their Name in Cursive
This one might sound like common sense, but have you asked your child’s school if they teach cursive and what grade it starts? I didn’t, and when the time came for my then 8th grader to sign her school ID, she didn’t even know how to draw the first letter of her name in cursive.
Apparently, cursive was only taught once, for one marking period, and was never reinforced in subsequent classes or years. I was mortified!
Obviously, I had not choice but to teach her how to sign her name. It was like teaching a kindergarten student how to write letters for the first time. It took several weeks of practice with a few pop-up quizzes over the last few years, to keep her cursive knowledge in-hand.
So if you’re not sure if your child knows how to sign their name, test them on it, and see how they do. If they fail at it, you’ll know their school left this lesson to you.
#4 How to Boil an Egg
There will be a time when your young teen is ready to move out or to dorm away at college. Enter the hot plate–an age old tradition that many college students have used to survive the college years. And in case you don’t remember, most college kids don’t have a ton of money to spend going out to eat every day. So, their options quickly become limited.
Enter the egg and as the saying goes, teach a child to boil an egg, and they’ll never go hungry! But kids will be kids, even if they’re young adults, which means that you’ll probably get a ton of phone calls asking you how to boil an egg. So it’s better to teach them while in your care, than have them living on their own and risk them burning themselves or something worse.
#5 How to Use an Iron
On a recent morning school rush, my 15 year old daughter asked me to iron her uniform shirt. We had less than five minutes to the school bell and we hadn’t even left yet. When I asked her why it was wrinkled, she said it was because she left it in the dryer, for 3 days! Being the amazing mother I am, I told her to iron it. It was when she screamed, “WHAT!” that I realized–she had no idea how to iron. And the feeling of being an amazing mother left my body! I had forgotten to teach her a very basic skill yet a necessity in life.
So on that morning, I ended up calling the school to say we would be late, and I proceeded to teach her how to iron her shirt. Since that day, there have been several days where she needs an ironed shirt. But now I get to watch her do it on her own. And that, is a great feeling!
#6 How to Count Cash
Between Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and Greenlight–the debit card for kids–you can expect to have a teen who has no idea how to count cash to pay for something or how to count their return change.
This is not good because you can give your kid a $100 bill for something that only costs $15 and they could give you back $40, all because they didn’t bother to count exactly how much cash they were supposed to get back. I never thought this would happen to me, but it did. And when you run a tight budget, your money needs to be accounted for down to the last pennies.
You can help prevent this from ever happening to you by practicing simple examples at home with your teens. Give them cash, make them buy your gallon of milk, and give them back the wrong change. Then ask them to double check their cash count. Do this several times with them and perhaps, they will learn to avoid receiving the wrong return change.
#7 How to Return Stuff at Stores
While online shopping is the preferred method of shopping these days, there are still scores of people who like shopping in-person. This means physically leaving the home and picking something at a real physical location, and then having to carry this item back to your car and home. And while this sounds like a lot more work than online shopping, it can still be fun, until something needs to get returned.
Teens and young adults today do not have much experience in the rules of returns, like trying on clothes without ripping the tags off, or making sure you keep the bag and the receipt, or bringing your driver’s license and original form of payment with you. These simple rules can be easily forgotten even for parents. Naturally, this leaves teens without the proper knowledge to make a return. Teach them the basics so they don’t waste money, which is usually your money anyway!
#8 How to Take Body Measurements
Buying clothes online is hard and for most teens, they’ll buy anything given the chance. But when it comes to sizing, they can’t take their choices to a fitting room. In turn, this causes headaches with sizing, returns, having to re-order the right-sized items again, and then waiting longer for the items that do fit to get delivered. All of that fuss and muss can be avoided if you teach your teen how to measure their body. This life hack will serve them well, even as adults.
#9 How to Buy a Bus Ticket and/or Train Ticket
Everyone drives everywhere these days, unless you’re living in a big city with great transportation. For teens and young adults who do not live in such cities, riding a bus and train may never happen.
This is because most places require parents to drive their kids to and from school, doctors appointments, play dates, and sports. So teaching this skill is not a top priority. Because of this, it would be wise to get on a bus/train with your teen to teach them how to successfully ride those modes of transportation. One day, they may need to know how to do it, whether it’s for an after school job or because of car troubles. So, make a point to give them this skill.
#10 How to Plunge a Toilet
It does not matter who you are or how old you are, we have all had to plunge a toilet at some point in our lives; mainly when the plumber couldn’t show up at midnight! The real question is, do you even remember how hard it is to do? To push that plunger up and down, a dozen times, only for the toilet to stay clogged?
This sounds like it’s not a major life skill that teens need to learn, but that’s a misunderstanding. Teaching your teen to do this so young also helps them appreciate all the hard work that goes into maintaining a home. Plus, when they do move out on their own, you can rest easy knowing that you won’t have to go to their new apartment at 3 a.m. to plunge their crap.
#11 How to Make Coffee
Keurig ruined this for so many people–pop the lid, place the pod, close the lid, press the button–so simple! One thing that many parents forget is that 15 year olds eventually turn 18, and either move out or decide to dorm away. And they don’t normally bring their parent’s expensive Keurig machine with them.
But your new college kid will likely need coffee for those long classes, and the money to buy it. And if you don’t want them calling you every few days for more coffee money, then you’ll need to teach them some basic coffee-making skills. This where a traditional Mr. Coffee comes into play. It’s cheap to buy and easy to use, but requires a little bit of know-how before it can be mastered. So do your teen a favor while they’re young, teach them how to make coffee in a regular ol’ coffee pot.
#12 How to Maintain a Car
Save yourself a midnight phone call with this one! Start your child in their tween years with informational discussions on how important it is to maintain a car.
Take them to the gas station with you, and let them watch you pump your own gas. Bring them to the air pumps, and have them help you put air in the tires. Explain the function and importance of oil changes. When they get old enough to drive, teach them how to change a tire safely–on busy roads and highways. Show them what safety equipment they should always have in their cars like road flares, reflective vests, a tire iron, a portable battery charger and tire pump, and a car jack.
Take the time to teach them early enough in their teen years so when they do get a car, they will feel armed with plenty of knowledge to maintain their own vehicle. And maybe, just maybe, you won’t get that phone call in the middle of the night with your new driver asking you to pick them up because they ran out of gas.
#13 How to Save Money
If you have ever given your teen money, then you know that asking for change is like asking for a unicorn to appear. It’s just not going to happen.
The reason for that is because teens and young adults tend to get a little spend happy when they finally come across money. Maybe they’re not working, so they don’t know the value of money. Or maybe they’re frivolous with your money because they don’t really care. Either way, giving your kid a money goal to achieve for some bigger purchase, like a car or vacation, will give them a sense of how to save. Teach them how to put away money, from each amount they receive, towards their bigger purchase goals. By doing this, you will be setting up your teen and young adult, for financial success when they transition into adulthood.
#14 How to Party Carefully
Rapists and murderers do not care about gender, laws, or society as a whole. They do as they please. They are predators on the hunt, and they don’t care what it takes to catch their prey.
As parents, we’d like to think our young adults will never attend a party, but that is not a reality. And our jobs as parents is to give our kids the lessons they’ll need to survive life’s realities. So whether your teens are ready to party, they’ll eventually need to know how to protect themselves.
It’s best to teach them now, while you still have their attention. Show them how to never leave their drinks or food unattended. Explain what a date rape drug is and what it does to a person. Tell them that a predatory person looks and acts like a normal individual, which makes them really hard to pinpoint. Address the bathroom rule–always go in groups. These are just a few life skills that should be imparted on your young ones so they can be safe.
#15 How to Protect Themselves
As a parent of four daughters, and survivor of rape myself, I cannot express how important this one is. It doesn’t matter what gender you are because certain people do not care. They only care about hurting others. No amount of preparation can guarantee you will never be attacked, it does provide a sense of security.
This is why having your teen and young adult take self-defense courses, is so important. At the bare minimum, a self defense course will teach them how to appropriately stand their ground or when it’s safer to leave a bad situation. And that’s worth it!
If you haven’t had a chance to teach your teen any of the above life skills yet, don’t fret. You have time to get them ready to live on their own and to do it successfully!
What are some skills you think teens need today? Let us know in the Forum!